Enlarge /. Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, speaks at a press conference on October 1, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai announced today that he will leave the FCC on January 20, 2021, the day Joe Biden becomes president. In his four years as FCC chief, Pai deregulated the broadband industry, eliminated net neutrality rules, and based his deregulation agenda on the use of flawed data and the recognition of broadband deployments that were planned before he became chairman.
Pai called it "the honor of a lifetime" to be chairman.
"I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to run the agency in 2017, to President Obama, who appointed me Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for confirming me twice . To be the first Asian – The American chairman of the FCC was a special privilege. As I often say, only in America, "Pai said in his statement today.
In line with the tradition of presidents appointing commissioners from both parties, Obama nominated Pai in 2012 at the request of Senate Republicans. When the Democrats were in power, Pai fought against the Obama-era decisions by the FCC to enact consumer protection rules such as net neutrality and broadband privacy regulations. When Trump became president and promoted Pai to chair, he set about overturning some of the biggest decisions made by his predecessor, Democrat Tom Wheeler.
Democrats are said to have a 2-1 majority in January
Pai's exit from the FCC would give the Biden government a 2-1 Democratic majority immediately after the inauguration of the new president. The FCC are currently 3-2 for the Republicans but Republican Michael O'Rielly is leaving the country in late 2020 because Trump pulled O'Rielly's renomination. Trump's decision to replace O & # 39; Rielly was not upheld by the Senate.
It's likely that Biden and the Senate will work a deal to add a Democrat and a Republican sometime in 2021 to fill the two vacant seats on the commission and eventually give the Democrats a 3-2 majority. But a Democratic majority FCC could work with a three-man group consisting of Democrats Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks and Republican Brendan Carr to push the restoration of net neutrality and other regulatory matters.
Rosenworcel, who has been an FCC commissioner since 2012 and is widely recognized by lawmakers and consumer advocates, could be promoted to FCC chairman either temporarily or permanently by Biden. Starks has been a member of the FCC for less than two years and is not considered a lead candidate for the chair. If Biden doesn't want to make Rosenworcel or Starks chairman, he could bring in a new Democrat for the role of Obama at Wheeler in 2013. One possible candidate for the chairmanship is former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who has already been named a chairman of the Biden Transition team that the FCC will review.
Social media raid likely dead
Biden's election victory was likely the fate of Trump's plan to whip up social media companies like Twitter and Facebook that have tried to counter Trump's attempts to spread misinformation on their platforms. A few weeks before the election, Pai announced a proposal to implement Trump's motion aimed at restricting legal protections for social media websites that block or modify content posted by users.
After the elections, Congress Democrats called on Pai to "immediately stop work on all controversial party-political issues" during the president's transition period. Pai did not immediately respond to that request, and in today's statement, Pai said nothing about political plans for the remainder of his term in office.
The upcoming 2-1 Democratic majority was made possible by Trump's decision to overturn O & # 39; Rielly's renomination shortly after O & # 39; Rielly refused to endorse the crackdown on social media. If Trump hadn't pulled the renomination, the Senate could have voted to give O & # 39; Rielly another term, which would have stuck the FCC 2-2 at the start of the Biden administration.
In his statement today, Pai said the FCC has "delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide, fueling innovation and competition, from 5G on-site to broadband from space, protecting consumers and promoting the public." Security. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough decisions. As a result, our country's communications networks are now faster, stronger and more widespread than ever before. "O'Rielly issued a statement calling out Pai for deregulation applauded the broadband industry and actions that "open more frequency bands to commercial use and expand broadband access to unserved Americans".
Rosenworcel, who consistently opposed Pai's deregulation measures and criticized the FCC majority for not helping Americans with broadband access during the pandemic, today issued a statement regarding Pai's departure. "Although we were not always in agreement on political issues, I have always valued our shared commitment to public service," said Rosenworcel. "Serving the American people is a tremendous honor and I wish them all the best for the future."